US high school students ranked 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in mathematics in OECD data released last year – at or below the international average in all three subjects while Australia performed better (9th in reading, 10th in science and 15th in maths), writes Denise Ryan at The Age.
Education Minister Peter Garrett recently met with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the now annual Australia-United States Education Roundtable and both nations are engaged in "unprecedented reform" to improve student results and the way education is delivered, Mr Garrett says.
"When you look at how our countries are tackling this challenge, you can see there is a remarkable alignment in the reform goals we're pursuing."
But Mary Bluett, president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union, cannot understand why Mr Garrett is so enamored of the US approach to education when it performs so poorly, writes Ryan.
Bluett believes Australia should instead look to Finland, a country that respects, pays well and empowers teachers to use their expertise.
Her view is shared by former president Clinton who spoke at the recent Education Nation forum in New York about the need for American students to have the same opportunities as those in Finland.
Clinton noted that teaching is the most admired profession in Finland, with 10 applicants for every job filled. Teachers, who are in the top third of their university graduate class, get high results, despite schools there having up to 50 different ethnic minorities.
Teach for Australia was launched in Australia three years ago and, like its US counterpart, has been criticized by teacher unions for providing superficial training.
US education professor Linda Darling-Hammond, who visited Australia to speak at union conferences this year, has long criticized the approach, saying teachers need more, not less training.
Yet Teach for America has now run for 21 years, with 9000 teachers in charter or mainstream schools. Last year it was the single largest employer of graduating students from Princeton, Yale and Harvard universities, drawing applications from 18 per cent of final-year students.
Mr Garrett met Teach for America officials earlier this month, so it is clear both governments see a place for such graduates.